In collaboration with the Hertie Foundation (Gemeinnützige Hertie Stiftung) the OCC offers the material for the project "Wir sind Hirnforscher" to primary schools in Münster. The aim of the lesson series designed by the Hertie Foundation is to introduce children to the control center of our body - our brain. The pupils themselves take on the role of brain researchers and, through their own experimentation, find the answers to several exciting questions about the brain. Additionally, our OCC PhD students visit the classes in the end of the project to talk about their own research and the experiments they conduct at the university and to try to answer the pupils' numerous further questions about the brain.
The PhD students Jennifer Pomp and Malte Scherff, who already visited classes that participated in the project at the Kardinal-von-Galen-Schule, the Wartburg Grundschule and the Marienschule, now were interviewed by the Hertie Foundation and asked about their experiences with working with the elementary school children, their motivation to volunteer in the project and the collaboration with the little robot Mr. Tie, who is an integral part of the project. You can find the complete interview here.
A paper titled "Noninvasive stimulation of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex modulates emotional face processing" by PhD student Constantin Winker and OCC members Markus Junghöfer, Maimu Rehbein, Carsten Wolters, and Volker Arolt et al. has been published in NeuroImage. The study continues the investigation of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) as major hub for positive valence and the possibilities of its modulation by transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). In a previous study (Junghofer, Winker, Rehbein, & Sabatinelli, 2017, Cerebral Cortex) the group presented hemodynamic and electrophysiological evidence for valence specific modulations of emotional scene processing after excitatory and inhibitory tDCS of the vmPFC. Here, they identified that tDCS modulation of vmPFC during emotional face processing results in effects convergent with scene processing, in that excitatory tDCS increased neural reactivity during happy compared to fearful face perception, whereas inhibitory stimulation led to a converse effect. In addition, behavioral data (affect identification of ambiguous expressive faces) revealed a bias toward preferential processing of happy compared to fearful faces after excitatory compared to after inhibitory stimulation.
A paper titled "Delayed Latency of Postural Muscles of Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities" by PhD student José Walter Tolentino-Castro, OCC Member Heiko Wagner and others has been published in Frontiers in Psychology. "It was already known that the brain structures as well as the function of individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ID) differs to typically developped individuals." José Walter Tolentino-Castro says, "We now wanted to investigate the function of the spinal cord in this population. It is complicated to study the function of the spinal cord without invasive methods. In our study, we used the so called “Wackelkiste” to observe the muscular delay following a lateral perturbation, which is computed on spinal cord level. We found no differences on muscular delay between ID participants and the control group. Our study broadens the knowledge of postural control of ID individuals and shows the necessity to develop interventions to prevent falls." The project was a cooperation between the Department of Movement Science in Münster and the School of Art, Sciences and Humanities at Universidade de São Paulo.
Neuroscience in School
The pupils in the class of teacher Silke Grabbe at the Marienschule Roxel now became early stage brain researchers when they completed the teaching unit „Wir sind Hirnforscher“ designed by the Hertie Foundation. The OCC offers the teaching material for the the 2-week project including the robot „Herr Tie“ to primary and secondary schools in Münster. The robot can move around the room, avoiding obstacles on its own, and he even can change direction at the children's command. Each project can be completed with a question-and-answer session about the brain with OCC PhD students. Interested schools and teachers can contact the OCC coordinator for further information.
PhD for Carina Bodden
We congratulate Carina Bodden on successfully defending her thesis entitled "Why we are who we are: on the effects of different life histories and serotonin transporter genotype on the behavioral and epigenetic profile of mice". The thesis was supervised by Prof. Dr. Norbert Sachser (Department of Behavioural Biology), Prof. Dr. Klaus-Peter Lesch (Department of Psychiatry, Psychosomatics, and Psychotherapy, University of Würzburg) and Prof. Dr. Hans-Christian Pape (Institute of Physiology I).
New OCC member - Prof. Dr. med. Georg Romer
We welcome Prof. Dr. med. Georg Romer as a new member of the Otto Creutzfeldt Center. Since 2013 Georg Romer is the Chair of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy. His research interests include the investigation of mental health problems in early childhood as well as the influence of family environments on mental health risks and resiliency.
New OCC member - Dr. Katja Mayer
Dr. Katja Mayer from the Institute of Psychology is our second new member in the Otto Creutzfeldt Center this year. Her main research interest is in visual perception and currently she investigates the interactions between processing of optic flow and biological motion as a Post-doc in the group of OCC member Prof. Dr. Markus Lappe. Welcome!
Hans-Christian Pape is the new President of the Humboldt Foundation
We congratulate OCC founding member Prof. Dr. Hans-Christian Pape who was inaugurated as the new president of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation at the Foundation's New Year's reception on January 18, 2018. Prof. Dr. Hans-Christian Pape succeeds Prof. Dr. Helmut Schwarz as the head of the Foundation and was appointed by Federal Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel to a five-year term starting January 1, 2018. In his Inauguration Speech Prof. Dr. Hans-Christian Pape demanded that scientists need to address stronger than before the challenges with which society finds itself currently confronted.
A paper titled “Analyzing the kinematics of hand movements in catching tasks—An online correction analysis of movement toward the target’s trajectory” by OCC PhD student Lena Slupinski and OCC members Marc de Lussanet and Heiko Wagner has been published in the Journal of Behavior Research Methods. In ball catching, the catcher has to guide the hand towards the future trajectory of the moving ball, based on predictions, which are mostly adjusted during the movement. The authors present a method for analyzing the hand movements of the catcher, assessing the time at which the trajectory of the ball is anticipated. This method can be used to quantify anticipatory behavior in interceptive tasks.
A paper titled “Association of Serotonin Transporter Gene AluJb Methylation with Major Depression, Amygdala Responsiveness, 5-HTTLPR/rs25531 Polymorphism, and Stress.” by OCC PhD student Ilona Schneider and OCC members Udo Dannlowski and Weiqi Zhang and others has been published in the Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. Analyzing methylation rates of an AluJb element in the SLC6A4 promotor in patients with major depression disorder (MDD) and healthy controls, the authors found associations of methylation with MDD, fMRI amygdala reactivity, 5-HTTLPR/rs25531 polymorphism, and recent stress. The results indicate that patients seem to differ in their stress-adaptive epigenetic processes, maybe via endogenous antidepressant-like effects.